Is it worth paying $1,000+ per person, per night for a fly-in safari?


Is it worth paying $1,000+ per person, per night for a fly-in safari?

Why would anybody pay $1,000+ per person per day for a safari? There are the obvious reasons such as staying in an elegant, romantic ‘out of Africa’ style tent, enjoying all the comforts of a hotel, including excellent food and personalized service.

In my opinion the two most important factors, however, are privacy and the quality of the guiding.

The most expensive lodges are almost always located in private concession areas where access is limited to the guests staying at the lodge(s) on the property. Ask anybody who has spent some time on a fly-in safari in Northern Botswana, and they will invariably mention seeing few other vehicles. The privacy and exclusivity of these camps create a wilderness experience that cannot be compared with a stay at a public reserve. I’ve had some wonderful (inexpensive) experiences in places like Etosha, Kalahari Gemsbok Park, and Kruger Park – which I have visited dozens of times – yet I have also had visits there marred by foolish behavior on the part of other visitors, such as illegal off-road driving, hooliganism and overcrowding, with sometimes dozens of cars converging on a ‘kill’ scene. Every visit is different and you can have the most sublime wildlife experience in a public reserve (I sure have), but by spending the dollars to stay in a private concession, you do not run the risk of having your vacation spoiled by some idiot throwing a beer bottle at sleeping lions. Most people do not return to Africa year after year, so for them it is a wise investment to spend a bit more in order to enjoy the proverbial trip of a life-time.

At private game lodges such as MalaMala in South Africa, Mashatu in the Tuli Block of Botswana, and many of the camps elsewhere in Southern Africa, the quality of the guiding is superb. A game drive with a really good guide is a veritable education. He or she does not only find the animals and birds and other wildlife, but interprets their behavior, explains their interaction with each other, and even predicts what will happen next. Being with a real ‘pro’ guide is like being ‘in’ one of those National Geographic film. This also applies to Zimbabwe which has on the whole probably the best guiding of any African country.

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